Bedford primary school headteacher takes part in remarkable round the world yacht race

A headteacher who is an amateur sailor has embarked upon an incredible endurance feat in the world’s most inhospitable oceans.

By Sally Murrer
Thursday, 21st April 2022, 11:31 am
Updated Thursday, 21st April 2022, 11:42 am

Lisa Sumpter volunteered as a crew member in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, which trains people from all walks of life to become ocean racers.

Participants sign up to compete in one or multiple legs of the race, or the full eleven-month 40,000nm round the world circumnavigation.

Each of the eleven teams race in identical 70ft Clipper yatchs and face enormous waves and huge weather systems including hurricane force winds.

The Clippers in action

Lisa, who set sail during the February half term, is on board the Qingdao, which is currently in a lead position.

She writes updates for her pupils at her school, St Joseph’s and St Gregory’s Primary in Bedford, who are following the boat’s progress.

Her last blog read: The boat has been heeled over, which means we are living life at an angle of about 45 degrees. It takes a lot of energy to move around the boat below deck as the floor is tilted and often quite slippery.

“Over the last few days we have reached the southern tip of Japan and we will be following the coastline up towards Tokyo before heading across the Pacific Ocean – have a look on the map and track the boat from Subic Bay in the Philippines to where we are now.

Lisa Sumpter

"We cannot see the coastline; just imagine it out there to the north of us. On clear days like today, when standing on the deck, you can see the entire circumference of the earth – 360 degrees of horizon and sea as far as you can see.

"The largest ship we have seen so far was over 400 metres long – can you measure that out along the path and see how long it was? Our boat is only 23 metres long in comparison.”

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Lisa added: “The weather has started to change. It was very hot to start with and we sailed in shorts and t-shirts (and our lifejacket of course!). Slowly the nights have grown cooler and most crew are wearing their yellow ‘foulie’ bottoms and tops with layers underneath. Boots have replaced deck shoes and woolly hats, sun caps! It is starting to feel like the North Pacific with more swell and bigger winds. We are currently on storm alert and are expecting winds of about 30 knots in the next day or so.”

She reminds her pupils to work hard and be kind to each other.

"Sing the ‘Lighthouse Song’ and remember me and my crew mates out here at sea.”

A spokesman for the Clipper Races said: “So far, Race 10, The Sailing City Qingdao Cup, has been a testing cocktail of extreme heat, wind holes and tough upwind conditions meaning constant beating into the wind, with each of the eleven teams adjusting to life at a 45 degree angle in the Philippine Sea.”

He added: “The North Pacific is the world’s largest and most remote ocean. At times, the nearest humans to the Clipper Race fleet will be astronauts in the International Space Station. Each of the eleven teams will face enormous waves and huge weather systems rolling through regularly.”

You can see the Qingdao in action here.